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2015 and Beyond: Anthony Davis May Be Squandered by the New Orleans Pelicans

this is a discussion within the Pelicans Community Forum; The New Orleans Pelicans could be wasting Anthony Davis' talent. Last season, he ascended into NBA superstardom. And, at only 22 years old, his status as one of the elite players in the league has barely cracked the infancy stage. ...

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Old 10-09-2015, 04:32 PM   #1
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2015 and Beyond: Anthony Davis May Be Squandered by the New Orleans Pelicans

The New Orleans Pelicans could be wasting Anthony Davis' talent.

Last season, he ascended into NBA superstardom. And, at only 22 years old, his status as one of the elite players in the league has barely cracked the infancy stage. However, though Davis sets the foundation for the New Orleans Pelicans (and my League Pass viewings) for at least the next five years, he’s entering his fourth year with no viable players around him.

We know Davis can do everything. He can run the floor, protect the rim, guard all five positions and shoot effectively from anywhere on the offensive end. According to Jim Eichenhofer of Pelicans.com, Davis added 12 pounds of muscle in the offseason, upping his strength and (hopefully) his durability.

In 2014-15, Davis showed us his all-around talent, stacking a line of 24.4 points, 10.2 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 1.5 steals and 2.9 blocks per game while averaging 36.1 minutes. He shot 53 percent from the field and was an 80 percent free-throw shooter.

Yet, after him, there is a cliff-face drop-off in production in New Orleans. If the Pelicans are ever going to compete with the juggernauts of the Western Conference, Davis needs help.

To be fair, the Pelicans have attempted to recreate a quasi-Orlando Magic team from 2009, surrounding Davis with shooters who space the floor and open up lanes for him to operate. And with new coach Alvin Gentry’s uptempo offense, New Orleans will get out in transition and get more open looks.

And, though dim, there are a few bright spots outside of Davis. If he can stay healthy, Ryan Anderson should bounce back from a career-low 34 percent from three-point range in Gentry’s system, though he is abysmal near the rim. The Pelicans have other shooters in Eric Gordon, Quincy Pondexter and Jrue Holiday who can all hit the long ball consistently.

In the first preseason game under Gentry on Saturday, October 3, the Pelicans shot 11-of-32 from three. They averaged 37 percent on three-pointers in 2014-15, which was fourth in the NBA, but they averaged less than 20 attempts. The larger volume in shots will help their scoring get over 100 points per game but will also drop the shooting percentages of players such as Luke Babbitt and Norris Cole who skewed the team average.

Volume for below-average players never increases efficiency. (Then again, just keep shooting.)

But the overall makeup of this team doesn't equate to playoff contention, no matter how well Davis plays and Gentry game-plans. The Pelicans just don’t mesh, especially in the long term.

Gentry’s offense focuses on flow, tempo and ball movement. While the faster speed will maximize Davis and turn him into an even greater terror for opposing teams, Gentry’s system has always flourished with a stellar point guard (Steve Nash in Phoenix, Chris Paul in Los Angeles and Stephen Curry in Golden State) and good shooting.

The Pelicans don't have that. Outside of Gordon, who can spot up from three, the Pelicans guards need the ball to be effective. Tyreke Evans, the team’s second-leading scorer in 2014-15, averaged 16.6 points per game on 15.7 field-goal attempts and shot a disappointing 30.4 percent from three last year (27.8 percent in his career).

Holiday, New Orleans’ third-leading scorer, will play a maximum of 15 minutes per game until January, according to John Reid of NOLA.com. While serviceable, Holiday isn’t a game-breaker who can compete with the likes of Curry, Russell Westbrook, Tony Parker and Mike Conley—players he’d have to guard if the Pelicans were to make a run to the Finals.

That leaves Gordon as the most talented guard by default. He’s the best outside shooter on the team, averaging 44.8 percent from three last year. But Gordon was the centerpiece to the Chris Paul trade, a prospect whose talent was supposed to erase Paul from fans’ memories. When the Pelicans signed Gordon, matching an offer from the Phoenix Suns and committing to him long term, they created one of the worst contracts in the league.

He will make $15.5 million this season.

Anthony Davis is an absolute gem. He's a freak-of-nature talent whom I’d love to see flourish, not wither the way of LeBron James during his first stint in Cleveland. Davis makes up for a ton of the deficiencies in New Orleans, but it took a Herculean effort from him just to make the playoffs last season. The Pelicans will struggle to win a series in the West with their current roster.

As for the future, Evans still has two years left on his deal. Holiday is owed $22 million and will ultimately cost $40 million and two lottery picks. Omer Asik signed for five more years at $60 million. The core of this team is two average guards, a below-average center and Davis.

It’s wasting the best young player since Kevin Durant.

And that is scary because the Pelicans will have no other pieces around Davis as he approaches his prime and the others age through theirs. Don’t look at the roster with him currently at 22—look at it when he'll be 26, 27 or 28 with a fully developed game.

It took four years to put this team together, and by the time Davis hits his third contract in 2020, the roster will nearly be completely overhauled. Because he is so young, there seems to no sense of urgency in New Orleans to build something. I’d just hate to see the Pelicans scrambling in the future because they wasted about 10 years of Davis’ career.

With the structure of the NBA salary cap and with the financial spike coming in 2016, it’s time for New Orleans to start looking for another star to complement Davis. It’s time to make a splash.

It's time for the Pelicans to help their franchise player.

Read more New Orleans Pelicans news on BleacherReport.com

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